Sunday, April 28, 2013

TOPP Interview: Ted Gawloski, Chief Geologist for Resolute Energy

Many thanks in advance for checking out this little blog.  It never ceases to amaze me at the reception and feedback I have received in getting this endeavor off the ground.  One example is one of the officers of the West Texas Geological Society, Geophysicist for Concho Resources Sergio Ojeda.  He was one of the folks encouraging the need for The Oil Patch Post and even recommended me speaking to a great guy, expert exploration geologist and one of Sergio’s former mentors who is this post’s guest; Mr. Ted Gawloski, Chief Geologist for the Permian Basin branch of Resolute Energy.

I recently had the privilege of meeting Mr. Gawloski at his office where he took time out of his busy schedule to visit with me about the focus of this blog.  He definitely struck me as a kind person, but there was no mistaking his passion and confidence as we spoke.  I found myself drawn into the interview where I took a lot out of his words.  As a fellow academic, Ted is credited with writing one of the only papers on The Bone Spring Fields and the Morrow Sands Fields.  Last September, Ted was a guest speaker at the WTGS Symposium where he spoke about the Abo Play in New Mexico and the possible implications of it extending into Texas.  Even before the interview started, Ted definitely had a clear view on what he hoped to pass on to the newer oil professionals.  At times, I found my own perceptions challenged by Ted’s views; however, I am forced to admit that Ted’s points are valid and in the end revealed to me ways I can improve my understanding of the oil and gas landscapes.
I hope that you can get as much out of this interview as I did.


JL:  Hello ladies and gentlemen.  This is Jay Leeper with The Oil Patch Post.  I have the privilege of speaking today with Mr. Ted Gawloski, Chief Geologist for the Permian Basin with Resolute Energy and author of papers for the Bone Spring and Marrow Sands Fields.  Mr. Gawloski has agreed to talk with me and now is as good a time as any to begin with the questions.

TG:  Sure.

JL:  First off, did I get the official title correct?

TG: That is correct.

JL: Great!  When did you first get into the field?

TG: Back in 1981.  I started out working for Amoco down in Houston but I was working the Permian Basin.  I’ve actually worked the Permian Basin since 1981. 

JL: Good Lord.

TG: (nods) A long time. 

JL: Job experiences?  I mean, since 1981 that’s been 32-33 years?

TG: About 33 years.  Quite a bit.

JL:  What companies have you worked with?

TG:  I guess I started out with Amoco like a lot of people.  They were really good about training people.  I got in with the guy making all the field trips so I got to go when people couldn't go.  I spent a lot of time out there in the field and in school and stuff.  It was a great learning experience.  The Majors trained half the people in this town.  They did it knowing that a lot of them would leave.  I left because my wife was actually a geologist working for Exxon at the same time but she got a job out here so we moved to Midland in 1984.  I got a job with Mitchell Energy at that point at a time when it was actually pretty hard to get a job. 

JL: No joke.

TG: It was right then that things were starting to fall apart (for the O&G business).  I managed to hang in there.  We did a lot of good things over at Mitchell Energy.  We built this district up buying lease holds into sales and working up prospects.  We made it work for 10 solid years until they had a downturn and ended up shutting the office down.   It was one of those things.  Now, I already had another job lined up and was ready to go.  I used it as a step-up point to work for another company here in town, Concho, which people really know is a great success story for this community here.  I was one of the 20 people who started Concho 3 and now they have over 800 people working for them.  They have one of the largest daily production of any company working here in the Permian Basin and they are headquartered here.  That was a really neat company to work for.  I was with them for 5-6 years.  I then came over to work for Apache for a little while.  However, I really felt like I needed to get back into … well I had an opportunity to start an office (Resolute Energy) and grow it and I always wanted to do that.  For someone my age to take a leap like that and do that was a little difficult to do but I’m glad I did it.  I’m here at the beginning and helping them start something in town and I told them this was the way you had to do business here in town.  If you were going to do business here in the Permian Basins then you had to come here and build here. 

JL: Resolute is headquartered in Denver, right?

TG: Right.  We had 3 people in the office last summer and now we have over 35.  We closed on a deal and things are starting to take off.  Business is pretty tough around here.  It’s a pretty competitive business. 

JL: Agreed.  I can definitely relate.  If you don’t mind, I know you have been doing this a long time and accomplished many things but what do you still hope to accomplish and achieve in your career?

TG:  I’m still trying to find that one elusive thing nobody else has found yet.  The way the Basin has been developed that is a really difficult thing to do because almost every section has some potential.  The key is lease hold.  That’s the hardest part to do right now because the oil is out there and extracting it is a little difficult to do but you have to have acreage to even get started.  Every day there are people coming in here with a fist full of money, and investor, and it’s amazing.  This town has changed dramatically in such a short time. 

JL: True.  If you don’t mind, being that you have been here so long and involved in the business, what changes do you see still to come in the oil and gas business; especially in the Permian Basin?

TG: With the Permian Basin, I call it a Renaissance going on right now.  It’s not just a change.  It’s flipped the whole thing around.  It’s going to last for as long as we can produce the oil.  There are so many locations and so many different zones stacked one on top of the other.  It’s going to take years to develop it even with all these people coming in.  It’s amazing what is now productive with the technology.  It makes it really interesting trying to map something like this as opposed to the conventional reservoir we have always been mapping and it takes a little different look at it.  You have to look at it completely different.  With the conventional stuff, you look at a log and find a pay zone and you go and map it.  Here you go and use all these different parameters and stuff.  You have to do a lot of work and the economics have to be always in balance.  It’s fun to see.  It’s amazing.  Just when you think the dog’s down getting kicked it just gets right back up and starts barking.  You get after it.  It’s fun. 

JL: I remember before we started recording this interview you made mention about having the passion for doing what you’re doing; especially for as long as you’ve been doing it.  Regarding the newer professionals, what are some of the differences you note between today’s professionals and the professionals from your generation?

TG: There’s a big difference.  A lot of the differences come from the advent of the computer age.  Of the geologists today, there are only a few who still do this (how he does exploration geology).  To actually go out to the field and actually look at the samples and the rocks … you cannot understand what’s going on unless you actually go out there.  I cannot tell you how many times I have gone out there and every time I do I learn something new.  I was fortunate to have loggers that I knew that were actually geologists that knew more about the wells than I did.  They were amazing.  They weren’t just someone that wrote down a few simple, little words.  They detailed a section.  I learned a lot from those guys.  I appreciated what they did.  You just can’t beat going out there looking at samples.  You can see it on a log and say this is what it is but you don’t know what the show looks like or the intricacies of what it looks like.  There is a zone out there in New Mexico, the Delaware Sands, it’s so fine grained and well rounded that half the time in the show the samples float and go away.  If you don’t stir it up or look at it carefully or quick enough you won’t know you were in a zone and you went right by it.  It’s little things like that that you learn what’s going on.  There was no bigger rush what when you heard a drilling brake squeaking in the middle of the night.  You’re waiting on a pay zone and you pop up waiting for that sample pacing the trailer waiting for that sample to come up.  And if you hit it right you just felt so good!  You actually see the rock coming up from 13,000’.  It’s something you can’t get off the computer.  I realize that you can’t do it as easily and people are really busy but there are still a few people who do it.  A guy I helped mentor, he’s a young guy, and he went out into the field and learned.  He knew the importance of it.  You can tell that he has a drive for it.  And the same thing for the electric logs.  You can get them over here (in the office) but you don’t really know what’s going on.  There are a lot of things that go on out in the field that you don’t know. 

JL: You mentioned the Bone Spring earlier.  You did a paper on that area, right?

TG: One of the few comprehensive papers. 

JL: Can you talk to me a little bit about that?

TG: It was something I did a while back with Mitchell Energy back when things got slow.  Someone came to me and asked me if I wanted to do a paper on it.  At the time it was pretty competitive and no one else was really doing it.  When I was at Amoco, we developed some of the Bone Spring Fields and I knew they (Amoco) had some core.  I got permission from them to look at the core even though nobody else would release anything.  They were really good about that and they shipped the core out to my office on pallets and said all they wanted was a copy of the paper.  I had enough to do the paper with and I made sure I did it right.  It took a long time to do it but Mitchell Energy gave me the time to do it.  It’s really important to do something like this every now and again.  I've also given a few talks on it at the symposium over here (WTGS Symposium) in town and they were so well received because they were pertinent talks dealing with everyday things instead of having some person go up there peddling something which is about 80% of the talks.  This was a talk about a prospect and how it was developed, how it was done, and the mapping as well as being successful which is always a good thing. 


TG: And I did another thing like it in a packed room.  I was a nervous wreck.  There were all these people there who just wanted to see something practical.  I tried to get some of my peers to do this but it is really difficult to get people to do this.  To put the time in to do it right.  I enjoyed it even though it was really hard to do.  I did another one and it was the same way.  It was something challenging and I always like to challenge myself.  To get it done was really good. 

JL: Is this something you would recommend today’s professional to take on?

TG: Absolutely.  And I encourage management from the companies to allow this.  If it’s not competitive let them talk about it.  Give them the chance to do it and they will be great at it. 

JL: I had always heard that the best way to learn something better was to teach it. 

TG: Absolutely. 

JL: Awesome!  OK, if you could pass something along to the newer generation of oil professionals, what would it be?

TG: One thing I see that’s being overlooked is that they rely on a computer too much.  This is especially true when it comes to mapping.  I never had a prospect that I turned in with a computer map except for regional purposes because it cannot take what is in the mind. You have to know what the definition of a system is in order to map it correctly.  You cannot let the computer do it because it has no idea what it is.  I always took the time to make my own maps.  They would get digitized and put into the computer but it was not computer generated.  As a matter of fact, I send a map up to my own company in Denver the guy was like, “I hadn't seen a map like this in a year!”  I said, “Boys, you’d better get use to it because that’s the way it’s going to be done!”  You have to have the interpretation with the map or else it’s just a map.  I already see too much of that.  And the other thing like I was talking about is to just go out and look at the rock.  See what’s going on around the rig.  See what a rig does.  What the people are doing out there.  The descriptions, shades of colors.  Learn this.  How does the equipment work?  What happens when you get gas up in the flare?  You know, that kind of thing.  Today’s new geologists are missing that.  There are some special young kids that are doing that.  A friend of mine yesterday, he’s a manager, told me he sent a kid out there and he’s been out there 19 days.  The kid is just loving it.  That’s the type of enthusiasm that you really want to see.  It’s rare, but you always want to get the right person.  This is what I’m seeing that’s missing and it’s sad because the opportunity is there.  Just look around this town.  You can almost walk out your door and there is a rig out there. 

JL: Very cool  A lot of good information here.  Are there any stories you can share with us that you’ve experienced over time?

TG:  Oh yeah.  There is a lot!  Some scary things and some fun things.  I remember I was out with my mudlogger and we were out having coffee and we were just above our pay zone.  We walked out the door and heard this little bleep of a squeak and they tripped the hole.  We both kind of looked at each other and agreed that there was something weird about that.  They started coming out the hole and swabbed in the hole.  Well we had cut into the top few inches of this gas sand and they didn't know it.  It started coming to see them.  Mud goes everywhere!  They had to light the flare and stuff.  We finally get it under control and drilled the rest of that rock out.  It was the most permeable sand I had ever found in the Permian Basin.  It had 2 darcies of permeability.  It was over pressured.  It’s amazing what you can sense when you’re out there.  I’ve also had many a good driller save my butt like in this other little story I was telling the other day.  They always have the flare line going out facing the north because of the southern winds we mostly get out here.  We were drilling and we had a lot of good gas in the hole.  We might have even been circulating.  Well, a cold front came through.  One of those Blue Northerns and the flare started coming back at us.  The shakers and pits were bubbling with gas.  I didn't know this but they had supercharged those engines.  If there had been a spark ….

JL: Oh my God.

TG: We didn't know this until afterwards which is probably good or I would have fell down on the floor.  The driller got us off just in time.  It’s things like that that can happened by you have to be on the rig floor to see what’s going on.  There’s nothing like the rush of seeing results from something you've been working on for months or years.  To see it come in is an amazing deal. 

As we wrapped up our visit, one the biggest points I got out of this was “Context”.  Ted admits that it is no secret that Technology has and will continue to impact the way geologists do their work; however, despite these advances without actually spending some time out on the rig it is difficult to put the data we see online into proper context.  In doing this, it increases the ability to be more effective in our analysis of the data we look at.  Also, I agreed that it is important to do research to better understand what it is we are studying.  Companies are well served to allow their geologists the time and resources to conduct these studies and where applicable pool resources with other sources.  In doing so, their employees are better prepared for the challenges they face in extracting that precious commodity that drives the success of their (and so many others) business, welfare, and future.

Thank you so much for visiting The Oil Patch Post.  Mr. Gawloski has graciously allowed me to post his email address ( if you have any questions on anything he discussed or you can comment below.  For those new to the field, I encourage you to talk to folks like Ted.  They have a lot of information to share and it can only help us in the end. 

BTW,  feedback is always welcomed.  I am always looking for folks to speak with so if you have any recommendations, please let me know.  If you see me, please come up and say “Hey”.  I always love meeting people and exchanging ideas to be better at what we do.

Take care, all!


  1. Hello, gentlemen. I just found this blog! I love it. The industry definitely needs more of this. I just have one quick comment with regards to training. You mentioned Amoxo was very good at training people, which is why so many people started off there. Do you think there is a disconnect in the industry today between entry level workers and the training they need to move up? And if so, why? Is this because gen X and gen y are not known for their leadership skill iris it because the previous generation is so busy, they haven't had time to invest in the types of training they had?

    1. No I do not see a disconnect between entry level workers and the training they need to succeed. I think that the majors got tired of training the rest of the industry to grow and succeed. There is a change in the way companies train their young geologists. Most of the training today is outsourced to private companies or vendors which for the most part, are well run with top notch people well versed in their field. The biggest change I see is that due to the Highly Competitive environment to hire new geologist many of the companies are searching the college campuses to find the best candidates. These chosen ones are then offered summer Internships where upon successful completion of their 6-8 week project are offered a full time job upon completion of their degree. Many companies are going this route mainly because they get a (almost) free look at a prospective new hire. A large Independent in town has filled 30 summer internships. My small company has even started a summer Internship program. This I believe is a win-win proposition for both student and company. If student and company work out then he/she are offered a full time job. If they are not a fit then they simply part ways

  2. Hi and thank you for your kind comments. I was recently reading an entry in a forum I subscribe to in LinkedIn discussing why there are so few people coming in. One poster posed that many geologists are going into the ecological rout partly because of the light the oil and gas industry is presently in. Don't know if I agree, but it is interesting. As a Gen"X"er myself, I don't know if I'm fir to speak but the Boomers are still running the show IMO. However, we are still needed to run the technology that the Boomers are uncomfortable with doing themselves. There are always exceptions in both cases, but generally speaking this is true. In my past life as an Educator, I can tell you that the present day kids are proving to be great collaborators. As Digital Natives (as opposed to us Immigrants), the nature of the job will change as, like Ted mentioned, the costs have to equal out. It's not good or bad, IMO, just the nature of Evolution (Change). My fear is that we are going to lose out on some key stuff which I hope to (in some small part) help preserve.

  3. Great interview Jay. I appreciated Mr. Gawloski's sentiments about being in the field, doing it and learning it there. I spent several years wirelining, specialized in production logging, e.g. fluid movement. Few that came into the business had the spark - that inner desire to figure it out while running your tools up and down the hole for hours on end, watching the pen on the chart recorder and literally becoming the tool in the wellbore. It definitely got into my blood and I sometimes miss those days of pondering and intuition - stepping out of the logging truck to kick rocks around until finally, a moment of clarity and you suddenly figured out what all the squiggly lines were telling you! The technology is great but sitting at me desk hooked up with the computer day in and day out, doesn't compare with the experience in the field. Production logging too, has gone the way of the dinosaur is seems. For whatever reasons, much less importance is placed on it and some of the big boy outfits, while they have the technology and young engineers out there running through the motions, I doubt many of them are getting the information some of the small, more specialize companies used to get. Cardinal Surveys, Tom Hansen, Worthwell (and then Bell Petroleum Surveys, turned Black Warrior, I think) and many more that are now just memories to fewer and fewer of us. Keep up the good work!

  4. Thanks, Ben. Excellent comment and one I think others can definitely relate to.